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A diarrhoea vaccination programme to spare thousands of babies visits to hospital has been announced by the Department of Health.
From Septermber 2013, children under four months will be vaccinated against rotavirus, a highly infectious bug that causes around 140,000 diarrhoea cases a year in the under-fives.
It currently leads to hospital stays for nearly one in ten – around 14,000 – of those who get it in the UK.
The Department of Health estimates that the vaccine will result in 70 per cent fewer hospital stays and halve the number of vomiting and diarrhoea cases caused by rotavirus.
Professor David Salisbury, director of immunisation said: “Rotavirus spreads very easily and affects around 140,000 children every year, causing distress for them and their families.
“Many people think of diarrhoea as something that all children get and that you have to put up with. But there is a way to protect children from this. I’d encourage all parents of young children to accept this vaccine when the programme begins next year.”
The programme is expected to cost around £25 million a year but will save the NHS around £20 million per year through fewer stays in hospital, fewer GP and A&E visits and fewer calls to NHS Direct.
The vaccine will be offered to around 840,000 infants, under four months in the UK.
The programme can’t start immediately because it takes months for vaccine suppliers to manufacture enough to meet the country’s needs.
The vaccine will be given orally as two separate doses of liquid drops to all children starting when they are two months old.
Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said: “It is upsetting to see our children ill in hospital. Rotavirus is the most common cause of diarrhoea in young children and this vaccine will protect our children and reduce hospital admissions for serious rotavirus infection.”